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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

WHO not HOW

We certainly find ways to be very narrow minded when it comes to what we believe, don't we?  Don't get me wrong - there are definitely times when we need to be rather "narrow" in our focus, but it is never to be to the exclusion of truth or the denial of another's faith in Christ.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the differences in HOW we worship as congregations that we miss the fact we are worshiping the same GOD!  It isn't HOW - it is WHO!  Three simple letters make all the difference - but only in the arrangement of those letters!  What matters is the doctrine we adhere to as we walk this earth.  If a person claims to be Christian, but then denies the work of the cross, making Jesus nothing more than a great teacher or another of the prophets, then the doctrine is wrong - therefore, the worship is not correct.  If a person fully appreciates the aspects of grace, knowing full-well that the cross of Christ, his life, death, burial and resurrection make it possible for a man to enter into eternal life with God, then their doctrine aligns with scripture.  That same individual might not "worship" in the same way we do, but it doesn't make their "style" of worship wrong.  In fact, there is as much diversity in "style" as there are people on this earth!  What makes worship "right" or "wrong" is WHO we worship - what we do with Jesus!

It doesn’t matter if you are circumcised or not. All that matters is that you are a new person.  If you follow this rule, you will belong to God’s true people. God will treat you with undeserved kindness and will bless you with peace. (Galations 6:15-16 CEV)

It is this matter of being "new" in Christ Jesus which unites all believers - regardless of our "style".  I probably tend to "lean" to the style of worship where I sing out loudly, enjoy the band playing robustly, and even raise my hands to heaven in honor of the one I am singing these worship songs to in the first place.  But...that doesn't make my "style" of worship the "right" one for everyone.  I was raised Catholic, seeing the many changes in the "style" of worship over the years.  We went from the old school Latin masses where no one knew what was being said and everyone was as somber as funeral attendees to the folk mass in which lay leaders strummed guitars and we sang rounds of Kumbaya.  Now, the latter "style" fit my fancy a little closer than the former, but it still pales compared to where I find myself today in worship.  Why?  In those days, I still hadn't connect the "WHO" of worship to the "HOW" of worship. I just liked the beat and tempo of the guitar music and "hip" songs!

I think Paul wants us to remember this important fact - WHO matters more than HOW.  It matters not whether we are "circumcised" - relating to the very traditional and more "staunch" types of worship - or "uncircumcised" - relating to the more non-traditional styles of worship.  What matters is how we are embracing Christ - what we do with his grace! Grace is not to be trivialized, but to be appreciated, celebrated, and given away time and time again.  In turn, we are worshiping God in an attitude of gratitude!  The connection we make with God's grace and how we connect others to his grace is where the true heart of worship is found.  If we don't handle God's grace well, we really aren't connecting others to Christ and this is what God's intent was in extending grace.

There is nothing more "peace-producing" than to have grace be the middle ground for our living.  It is grace which gets us beyond the differences in style - to the point of not being critical of another's principles of worship.  Relationship is challenging enough without muddying the waters with being critical of another's style of worship.  Remember the key here is what another does with Jesus and his grace - if they have a correct biblical perspective of these key factors, then their worship is between them and God - they have nothing to "prove" to us.  

So, our focus is on being new creatures in Christ Jesus. This newness of life (a life based upon grace) is the true measure of worship. Scripture accurately and simply declares, "For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it." (Ephesians 2:8-9 GNT) The gospel message is sure and to be trusted. The good news which gives us a foundation of mutual worship is simply: "God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free." (Romans 3:22-24 GNT)  

So, as we begin to focus more on WHO we worship than on HOW we worship we will be asking this question - what are we revealing in our worship about the grace and gift of Jesus?  If we can honestly say our worship aligns with what scripture says about this, then our worship is fine!  Just sayin!